Joanne R. Lupton '66: Citation and Speech
Joanne Reed Lupton—research scientist, distinguished professor, shaper of public health and nutrition policy across the globe—we salute your unswerving dedication to the principle that nutritional and dietary claims must be anchored in impeccable scientific evidence.
After earning your Ph.D. in nutrition from the University of California at Davis and taking a postdoc in clinical nutrition at the UC Davis Medical School, you began, in 1984, your long career at Texas A&M University, where your research focuses on the effect of diet on colon physiology and colon cancer, with a particular focus on dietary fiber and n-3 fatty acids. At Texas A&M, your truly multidisciplinary trajectory has taken you from your initial appointment in animal science, to a dual appointment in veterinary medicine, to the Founding Chair of the Faculty of Nutrition, and now to a set of senior appointments that give you a title almost too large for a business card: Distinguished Professor, Regents Professor, University Faculty Fellow, and holder of the William W. Allen Endowed Chair in Human Nutrition. Your current CV, all 69 pages of it, lists a breathtaking array of teaching awards, research awards, named lectures, national review panels and committees, four patents, and a publications list that includes 153 refereed papers, 18 monographs and book chapters, and 219 abstracts. Your work has been supported by some 75 research grants, with your current support coming from the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, and the National Space Biomedical Research Institute. Research and teaching are one for you: you have advised dozens of graduate students and postdocs, taught legions of undergraduates in courses and in the lab, and made mentoring an absolute priority.
With sound data and strong conviction, you have moved nutrition science into the arena of public policy, improving food labeling, helping to prevent disease, contributing to initiatives that will lower health care costs. You chaired the National Academy of Sciences panel that determined the dietary intake values for protein, carbohydrates, fats, and fiber. You chaired another panel to determine the definition of dietary fiber. You spent a year at the Food and Drug Administration helping to develop levels of scientific evidence required for health claims. You consult on dietary macronutrients everywhere from your home state of Texas to government agencies in several Asian countries. In fact, you are just back from giving talks in China on intake values. You extend your work into outer space as well, advising on nutrition standards for NASA and leading a team in developing dietary interventions to counteract bone loss and muscle wasting in long-term space flight.
In a 2011 interview, you deftly turned a question about your career into an opportunity to mentor others. “Read a lot in your field,” you said. “Carve out an area of expertise. Identify the research problems. Seek funding for projects to answer those questions. Attend national meetings, and join associations and committees. Solve one problem and do good work, and they’ll ask you back. That leads to the next step and the next.”
“Solve one problem and do good work, and they’ll ask you back.” Good advice to your younger Mount Holyoke sisters. For your great good work, we too are honored to ask you back. Mount Holyoke is proud to bestow upon you the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.
President Pasquerella, graduates, family and friends – it is such an honor to be here today.
Forty-seven years ago, when I was sitting where you are now, I was so excited to be heading to NYC with two of my classmates to begin working for the architect IM Pei.
If anyone had told me then that I’d be a scientist, and receiving an honorary degree from Mount Holyoke, I would have told them they were crazy – unless my mother told them first. A scientist? I was a philosophy major – I wrote the music for Junior Show.
But here I am today, eager to share a few things I’ve learned along the way:
Find your passion. Some of you already have, either before Mount Holyoke or because of Mount Holyoke – good for you. But others, like me, may be late bloomers. Don’t worry – take your time – it will come. (Your parents may not like to hear that.) I didn’t start as an assistant professor of nutritional sciences until I was 40. Mount Holyoke has prepared you for this – you won’t settle for anything less.
Get really good at what you do. I made a conscious decision early in my career as a scientist to consider criticism a “gift” and embrace it. (Believe me I was not so enlightened at Mount Holyoke.) Surround yourself with colleagues who are better at what you’re doing. You will get better much faster.
Try to make the world a better place. As I’ve aged (I like to call it matured), I’ve become passionate about translating science into public policy – making sure Food and Nutrition Policy is based on sound science. It’s so important and so personally rewarding to feel like you’re making a contribution, which is a big part of the Mount Holyoke legacy.
Find the right life partner to share your journey with – someone who is passionate about you and your vision – the low points will be so much easier and the highs will be more wonderful. I’ve been fortunate to find my husband, Don, and it has made all the difference in the world.
Congratulations to all of you, and I wish you a long, passionate, and rewarding life.
(Note: This printed text may vary from the speech delivered.)